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It is now well recognized that we live in harmony with more than 39 trillion micro-organism on and in our body. These micro-organisms are essential to our health and in fact perform many functions we cannot do. For example, we cannot digest starchy foods so the micro-organism do that for us and a beneficial by-product of this action is short chain fatty acids, which help support the health of the cells that line the colon. The gut micro-organisms produce B vitamins and Vitamin K. They assist in the absorption of essential minerals and they provide a barrier of protection for our gut wall. A diverse community of gut micro-organisms ensures all jobs are staffed and good bugs defend us from bad bug infiltration.
Foods that contain antibiotics and antibiotic medication greatly impact the gut micro-organism communities. Insufficient dietary intake of fermentable starchy foods will not provide enough food for the micro-organisms. Stress greatly impacts the diversity and numbers of micro-organism in the gut. All of this can lead to “dysbiosis” – a bad balance of gut micro-organisms.
Researchers have found that healthy individuals have the greatest number and diversity of micro-organisms in the gut.
Our goal is to protect the numbers and diversity of our gut micro-organisms and restock when necessary.
We need to eat a diversity of foods, particularly starchy fermentable carbohydrates to support our microbiome and all the jobs they do for us. Please refer to the link on Fantastic Fiber if you are unsure what starchy fermentable carbohydrates are. You will find lots of information there and some recipes. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha are excellent choices to promote gut micro-organisms.
We need to avoid taking antibiotic medication if not essential. Over prescribing of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria. This is a dangerous position to be in if the bacteria infection we are sick with is resistant to treatment. The greatest contributor to antibiotic resistance is due to the agriculture industry. Animals are fed copious amounts of antibiotics to combat illness related to close confinement and because it promotes weight gain. Grain crops are sprayed with the pesticide, Roundup which was originally patented as an antibiotic. These antibiotics leak into the food chain and our gut microbiome suffer the consequences. This is an important reason to choose organic meats whenever possible and to remove grains from your diet.
To increase your gut microbiome diversity you need to eat a diversity of foods, which can be difficult. One way to improve diversity in what you eat is to make a Veggie Mash- a mixture of 10-15 different vegetables you do not regularly eat. Only a couple of tablespoons of a Veggie Mash can improve your microbiome diversity.
Another way to help improve gut microbiome diversity is to supplement with probiotics. There are many different probiotics on the market with various combinations of the numbers and strains of species. It is very confusing and no one probiotic is right for everyone. Since it is difficult to know what your microbiome is missing, it is best to always switch up your probiotics: change the brand, number and strains each time you purchase. You may need a higher dose probiotic if you have been dealing with more stress or sickness or have been travelling. There is one brand called MegaSporeBiotic that has been clinically shown to maintain healthy gut barrier function and overall immunity. It is an excellent choice for a probiotic.
You will also see the term "prebiotics" which are essentially the "food" for the gut microbiome. It is like planting your garden and then fertilizing it. If you eat fermentable starchy carbohydrates, those are the prebiotics. NOTE: some people with dysbiosis (poor gut microbiome balance) can get intestinal upset taking pre and probiotics because they are further creating an imbalance. These people should stop eating starchy foods, pre and probiotics and consult a doctor to deal with the dysbiosis first.
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